A Global Epidemic of Masculine Distress
On most nights, you feel sick. I’m not talking about a cold or the flu; I’m referring to a sense of existential nausea in the pit of your stomach. You try to use the bathroom, to either puke or shit. You don’t care which; whatever comes out first, whatever nullifies the unsettling feeling in the pit of your stomach. But the toilet you need is not made of porcelain, ceramic or plastic. Until you find that special toilet, you’re sick, unable to purge it all away.
In a way, you live in a leper colony, a socially constructed leprosarium, alongside other emotionally neutered men. Every day, it seems a little part of you falls off. The inhumane world is chipping away at your very human masculinity. You are being de-sculpted, chipped away at by some vindictive Rodin determined to castrate everything you want. The toilet you seek is not a physical object, but rather a sense of wholeness you achieve when you puke and shit out your anxieties and faults. What you’re looking for is a metaphysical toilet, so you can flush the sickness away.
What is the sickness though? And why do so many men have it?
Old masculine stereotypes that oppress
A recent The Guardian article opens with, “We need to talk about masculinity.” As WWE superstar (and the God of Indie Wrestling) Daniel Bryan would say, “Yes, yes, yes…”
Masculinity is not just a problem in the United States, but in other first world countries as well, such as Britain. Laurie Penny’s article cuts to the core of the problem, as she writes, “The crisis facing men and boys cannot be solved by reviving the tired stereotypes that oppress and constrain them.” This oppression has led to a masculine sickness.
Young men and boys are trapped between dead masculine stereotypes and a hapless, murky future. The masculine past is useless, the masculine present is nonexistent and the masculine future is, well, unformed and possibly filled with debt, unsatisfactory jobs and hopelessness. There’s an overwhelming sense of powerlessness amongst men in America and Britain.
As we’ve discussed in other blog posts, masculinity has no clear-cut definition. This is a problem. Mere decades ago, masculinity was associated with breadwinning. Men were breadwinners; they brought home the money (for the most part). But due to a parade of recessions, social change and other factors, men aren’t breadwinners as they were in years past. Many men can’t deal with this fact. Although times are very different, men are still socially conditioned when it comes to breadwinning. This needs to change.
The breadwinning stereotype has hazards
In Britain, as pointed out by Penny, this lack of breadwinning has resulted in a misguided and misdirected anger toward the world – women, in particular, such as single working mothers. This is wrong. Clearly, there’s a crisis on multiple levels. The only solution, it seems, is to redefine what it means to be a man, to teach men that it’s important to respect women. Being a gentleman is masculine. (Speaking of which, where have all the gentlemen gone?)
Penny goes on to say, “In the real world, not all men want to be “breadwinners”, just like not all men want to be violent, or to have power over women. What men do want, however, is to feel needed, and wanted, and useful, and loved.” Penny hits the nail on the head. At the end of the day, that’s the crux of the masculine crisis. Men don’t feel needed, wanted, useful or loved. The idea of fatherhood has been belittled. College degrees don’t guarantee a career. Poor economies and “improving” technologies have effectively eliminated many jobs, especially in the manufacturing field. That is, suffice to say, a lot of change to go through and has bred a sickness among men, an existential nausea in the pit of our stomachs. This has negatively affected dating and living life. For instance, guys get married less because they don’t feel secure about providing food for the nest.
A call for a new role model
It’s clear that the idea of masculinity has not evolved; it’s still stuck in the muck of tradition or, in Penny’s words, “We still don’t have any positive models of post-patriarchal masculinity.” Well said! Where’s that positive masculinity? The only thing we can feel anymore is the onset of rigor mortis. We aren’t necrophiliacs; we’re men. We mustn’t cling to dead things and that includes these outdated modes of masculinity, such as breadwinning. As men, we must persevere through the desperation, this sickness, turn inward and truly decide what it means to be a man. We must find that metaphysical toilet or risk being marooned on an emotionally neutered island the rest of our lives.
Post by Geoff LaPlace